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Our country has changed a lot over the last hundred years. One disturbing trend is America's declining reliance upon God's Word for wisdom. An active church full of men and women who observe biblical teaching and encourage our country to do the same offers the only solution to this dilemma. Therefore, we must strive for complete dependence upon God's Spirit through prayer and for full submission to His will through Bible intake.
The Wall of Bronze and Whose Job it is to be It
The Wolf at the Door and Whose Job it is to Take Him On
Father, thank you for a chance just to get in here and to connect with you and be reminded of how great you are, so we would run to you. We thank you, Lord, that you've created us to worship you, which means you've created us to know truth because you know truth will set us free. We thank you that you are not an insecure, needy God who is desperate for love for your sake but that you are a perfectly full, competent, complete God who, because you are love, does the thing that love must do: shares it.
You choose to share your love and your glory with us so we can participate in the goodness and kindness of who you are. We've seen the ramifications that come through in our lives when we separate ourselves from you in moments and in lifetimes and in civilizations. Indeed, we have seen personally and are observing corporately that the one who despises your Word will be in debt to it.
Thank you that, through whatever means you used, we are here today and we are gathered together today to be reminded of how gracious you are to love people like us, how good you are to want to forgive us and reconcile us and then restore us to what you intended for us because it delights you because you're a loving father.
What an amazing truth! Help us to stop throwing onto you things that we think you are and receive from you revelation that reminds us of why we should worship you and be fully satisfied in it. For your glory and our good, I pray that this would be deeply embedded in our hearts, amen.
Well, last week we kind of did start the service with a little reference to the fact that, if it weren't for the American soldier, the wolf that is at our doors would just march right through and devour all that we hold dear. Today, we started the service talking about a small-town, southern man raised in the ways of lovingkindness and truth and following Jesus and standing for the things our country has traditionally stood for.
What we really want to talk about today is…How can the things that this country has stood for that have brought about the wealth and the prosperity and the blessing and the peace and the liberty that so many of us love be really maintained? How can it be restored? How can it be preserved? Whose job is it?
Well, the answer to all of the questions is the church. You know, I went back, and just every now and then, it's just fun to kind of look at these things. A hundred years ago, let me just tell you where we were. One hundred years ago, it was a radically different world. On January 1, 1911, there were less than two billion people on the face of the earth.
As a good earth citizen, do you know how many are on earth now? There are just around the seven billion mark, so a significant growth of people in the last 100 years. America had 92 million people in it. There's been a 300 percent growth in America these last 100 years. It's now somewhere around that 310 million range.
America was an interesting place back then. The average life span in 1911 was 47 years of age in our country. Isn't that amazing? It was 47 years of age just 100 years ago. Only 6 percent of Americans had graduated from high school. There was about a 20 percent educated group that was out there. Of the births that took place, 95 percent took place in homes.
Now, this next stat, I think, is a little distorted, but there were only 230 reported murders in the United States that year. I think the key is reported. There was not probably a lot of logging out there in the frontier about what we were doing to one another. In other words, in our cities, if you will, murders were not a major problem.
Only 14 percent of the women washed their hair once a month. How about that? When they did, they used borax and egg yolk. Go get you some of that! Marijuana, heroin, and morphine could be bought over the counter at pharmacies. Specifically, back then, pharmacists would tell you heroin clears the complexion" or, I guess, makes you not care. It "gives buoyancy to the mind." Oh, yeah! It "regulates the stomach and bowels and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health." We've come a ways. The flu, tuberculosis, and dysentery were the three leading causes of death.
It's just amazing the different stats out there. The average US wage was $0.22 an hour. There were only 8,000 cars and 144 miles of paved road. The speed limit was 10 miles an hour. There were 45 stars on our flag. The population of Las Vegas was 30. Isn't that just fun stuff to go back and look at?
You can't imagine what has happened in 100 years, and if we'd have told folks 100 years ago what would be going on in 2011…what our world would look like, what our country would look like, what the national morale would be, what the national debt would be, or how we would be viewed in the world…you could not have convinced anybody that we would be where we were in interesting stats and in some not-so-interesting choices and some tragic ones, in fact.
Now this next verse is not at all specific to the United States of America, but it was specific to Paul saying, "Look, you need to understand. As men move away from being under God, as men prosper, as men move out of the bondage of whatever situation they're in and find some friends, some liberty, and some freedom, if they don't stay connected to God and stay connected to one another and pursue the Scriptures, then I will tell you where everybody is going to end up."
He said in 2 Timothy, chapter 3, "But [you need to] realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.""It's going to get rough," he said. That was true in the last days around Noah, that things were getting kind of rough, and God got a little bit fed up until he was ready to tramp out, if you will, the grapes of wrath and bring forth his justice.
Paul says this in 2 Timothy, chapter 3. This is, again, not at all specific to our country, but it is an observation about what is certainly true of the end and last times of a people, and I think one day of all the people. See if this doesn't look familiar. It says:
"For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these."
It talks about how it's just going to be a deteriorating world if the sanctifying influence and presence of God isn't there. Let me just say this. Whatever is going on in our country, you can certainly look at 2 Timothy, chapter 3, and go, "Wow! That looks rather familiar." Well, why? It's because when men move away from God, when they move away the relationship that comes with God and the kingdom that goes with it…
I mean, this is what Jesus said. "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who understand that they don't have in and of themselves the constitution to choose what is right. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and don't lean on their own understanding, and in all their ways, they acknowledge him, and they let him make their paths straight. That's the blessed people." "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." That's not talking about necessarily that theirs will be salvation.
That's certainly true of what gets you to a salvific understanding of God, but what he's saying there is, "If you want God's kingdom, if you want to live in a world where you go, 'This is a good place. There is a right sense of rule and relationship here,'" then he said, "It's not going to come in a way that seems right to man. Don't trust men. Don't follow men. Don't trust your own heart. Your own heart is desperately sick and deceitful above all else. Cursed is the one who trusts in the flesh, but if you want kingdom, if you want paradise restored, be humble in spirit."
Proverbs 13:13 is a proverb that just basically should be tattooed on the front of all of our bedrooms so we wake up every morning and we see it. Our Congress should see this. Our world governments should see this. "The one who despises the word will be in debt to it…" In other words, God cannot be mocked. Sooner or later, you're going to reap what you sow, and it's going to get progressively worse until you go, "How did we get here?"
The answer is that it was by an arrogance not believing that you needed to live under God. That will always bring chaos to your own world, and it will bring chaos to your corporate world. Let me just take you back to what we've been looking at for months in the book of John. The word was actually a phrase introduced by Greece that described this large idea, this invisible, they thought, impersonal force that ruled all of morality and the hard sciences of physics and math and chemistry and the soft sciences of ethics, morality, humanities.
If you kicked at the goads… A goad is the long stick where you could put some land animal and move it forward. Though you were small, you would take that stick, and you would drive it right there in that soft tissue beneath the tail. It makes you want to kick, but in vain do you kick against the goads. If you kick against the Word, the Greeks would say, "It's going to bring chaos into your life."
John said, "I know the Word. I know who he is. He's not an impersonal force. He is God. He has revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus, and if you reject Christ, if you move away from him, you will be in debt to him." "The one who despises the word…" That is the Word of God that is revealed, but it is also the person of God revealed in Jesus Christ. "… [you're going to] be in debt to it. But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded."
So, really where we are in these last days is a country that is just fulfilling the truth of Proverbs 13:13. Now whose fault is it that our country despises the Word? Let me just say this. I was recently with a bunch of folks from our pre-married ministry here, and we were just reminding ourselves of some things. We were encouraging the leadership that was there.
This last Thursday, I was with a group of friends. Their daughter was getting married, and we met with that young groom on Thursday night and just gave him a charge and reminded him what it meant to be a godly man, and one of the things we said to him is, "Look, you need to know this. Every marital problem you will have going forward is a spiritual problem."
Every relational problem that exists in your life is a spiritual problem. It's an issue of you not functioning the way God says you should function. Because when you function the way God says you should function, it leads to peace. Let me just show you that. That wasn't just my idea. It comes from Galatians, chapter 5, verses 16 through 26. It says, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." In other words, be humble. Trust in the Lord. Follow him.
He goes on to say, "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…" Because you are corrupt. You are depraved. You are fallen in your nature. "…for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident…" See if this doesn't show back up in 2 Timothy, chapter 3. It says:
"… [they are] immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Do you see how this all ties together? What he's saying is, "In the end times, men are going to grow arrogant against God again. They're going to move away from the blessing of living underneath him as he has reconciled himself to them. They're going to despise the Word. They're not going to function as he wants them to function as a group of people who know him. The church is going to become increasingly irrelevant, and guess what's going to happen? Chaos. It's what always happens."
Paul then says, "This is the solution." This is beautiful. "But the fruit of the Spirit…" In other words, if you want God's kingdom (don't we all want that?), we look at this earth, and we go, "Man, what is so wrong? This place is broken." God says, "You want it to be fixed? Here's how it's fixed. Reconcile with me. Live under God."
This is the fruit of living under God. It's what we all long for. It's utopian. "… [there] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." In other words, you don't need law when that's the way people live because when you live in love with God, the God who is good, it brings blessing where you are, and that is the liberty of love and life with God.
In James, chapter 1, verses 22 through 25, it just says, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." Don't despise the Word by reading it and having lots of Bibles and going to churches and then going out here and doing what you want the rest of the week. Don't put "In God We Trust" on your coins, don't declare in your Declaration of Independence that you need sovereignty to bless you and that you realize that you have been given things by Creator God, and then act as if you don't. It will lead to chaos. He goes on to say right here:
"…prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty…"
Don't you love that? This is what God's law is. So many of you are undoubtedly like me, where I just believed that God's Word was just this big rule book that was this ball and chain, and it was going to just strip me from joy and freedom and life and all that I wanted to do, and I didn't want to be shackled by the Word of God and a relationship with God. God's going, "No, no, no. You're not going to be shackled by a relationship with me. You're going to be shackled if you don't have a relationship with me, if you choose your own way."
The law of love, the law of reconciliation to God, the righteous way, is where liberty is. It's where liberty is. Guess what's happening? When you don't live under God as a country and as an individual, guess what you lose? Liberty and justice for all. Those are the very things that have made this the greatest place to live that the world has ever known over the last 200 years. Why? It's because we despise and want to break free from this law.
It says in Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained…" Where there is no understanding of how to get to where God wants us to get. "… [we're] unrestrained,
But happy is he who keeps the law." I love the Proverbs because it just reminds me in very simple statements. Okay, last week, I used the word idiots, and some people heard me call you guys idiots. No one really told me that, but I used the word idiot and defined it. I'm not going to call you an idiot today. I'm going to call you stupid.
This is great. Proverbs, chapter 12, verse 1, says this. "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." What that means is basically this. By the way, when I did this (I think this year in my little Journey I used this), I went back, and I looked. I love to go back and look and go, "Where'd that word come from?" Okay, this is not a joke. The word stupid in English comes from the Latin stupidus. It means numbskull, somebody whose brain is not sharp and clear. It is numb to common senses. It is dull. That is a stupid person. They're not sharp.
In other words, here is what the Word is saying. "Look, you have a fallen nature. You're going to drift. It you don't think you need correction, if you hate discipline and you mock at knowledge and you scoff at it, then you are a stupid, numb, dull person, and it's going to cost you, and it's going to cost a country who keeps walking around going, 'We just don't know what to do to fix this thing.'"
I would say that it's pretty clear that you'd better start by going to the one place where there is truth and where there is liberty and going, "Why don't we start to do what it says we should do? Seeing how that worked out pretty well for us for a long time, why don't we go back to the beginning and see if we can't reconstitute, redeclare our dependence on something greater than ourselves instead of putting forward another series of ideas of men to lead us to our utopian salvation?"
You know, this whole thing we call re:gen on Monday nights… Do you know what that really is? It's a group of people who get back together, and they go, "We have to start over. There's going to be a new Genesis in my life." Why? It's because we are not stupid. The smartest people at Watermark are the folks who are no longer idiots.
Now, that is a brilliant statement. Let me explain that. An idiot, again going back to last week, is somebody who owns their own opinion, who thinks they know the right way to find freedom in life, so they do it through every kind of excess and human coping strategy known to man, and finally, you are so broke, and you are in debt to self and the Word of God, and in your brokenness you come, and you declare dependence on something other than you, and you're no longer numb. That's what God does.
Do you know what you have to do when someone is numb? You have to up the intensity and the heat and the pain, until even a numbskull can go, "Ouch! Ouch!" and you're no longer dull, but you're moved through that pain to a place of repentance and its kindness, and it can lead you to life again. That is why pain is often one of God's greatest gifts. It is to show us what we need.
Let me just very quickly just go back and just say a few things. The guys who founded our country, there is a lot of debate about were they Christian and were they this. There were many that were deists, many that were unitarians, but really, there were no atheists. There were no people who said there is no God. They all understood that there was at least this idea of this impersonal force that we could not kick against its goads, and they lived in subjection to it, and they declared that together. Many of them were very Christian, many of them.
This is what our first president, who didn't want to be king, because he knew kings turned into tyrants… Washington was firmly aware of his own depravity, so in his very first inaugural address, he said a couple of things. He said this. "…the foundations of our National policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality…"
In other words, you cannot make people do what they will not do. If we don't have a moral people, the way that we have constituted ourselves as a democracy, we will fall. "…the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained…" That's the same as Proverbs 13:13. If we just scoff at God, we will be in debt to him and what he says.
John Adams, one of our early presidents said this, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Why? It's because we're a government, as Lincoln said at Gettysburg, "…of the people, by the people, for the people…"
If the people don't know what truth is or if they define truth on their own, it's going to become a government that is less than that which is rooted in good, and it will lead to chaos and all the things you saw in 2 Timothy 3 and Galatians 5:16 and following, and there will not be liberty but increasing bondage to our own appetites. The borrower is the lender's slave and on and on and on.
Tocqueville, when he came through America and just made different observations about different things, said, "America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." Boy, didn't he know! We are a nation that scoffs at what God has said will make us great, just like we are made up of many individuals, many in this room, who scoff at what God says will make us great.
Going to a building on Sunday doesn't make you great. That is the man who is deluded who looks at the Word of God like the guy who looks in the mirror and goes, "Ugh!" and walks away and doesn't deal with it. That's what James 1 says. The guy who looks in the mirror and says, "That right there ain't right. I have to make it right," and in his humility, he goes, "God, how can I have a makeover here?" and God says, "Well, it's not going to be external. It's going to be internal and will transform you," is the one who will have blessing.
We have a country that has changed in many ways, not just, you know, in our industrial strength, not in our inventions, but we have a country that has changed in our morality. We have decided that we're not going to let our kids at all be instructed anymore in a basic moral curriculum rooted in God's eternal truth. We mock the Word, and we have had the chaos come our way that the Greeks predicted would come their way if you mocked it.
I could go through and list statistics after statistics of things that have changed in terms of educational degeneration, moral degeneration, hopelessness, despair, depression, suicide that is thick within our kids. One of the fastest growing segments in our country is those who are called noners. In other words, they don't affiliate with any of the myriad of religious options that are in our country.
There are more noners than there are people of the combination of all non-Christian religions in our country, people who just say, "I don't affiliate with anything." In other words, they wouldn't say they're not spiritual. Most noners are not atheists. They are still seeking spirituality, but they have rejected the God of the Scriptures as the means through which they can find it. Spiritual seeking is in, in our country. Spiritual finding is out.
Whose job is it to help people who are seeking truth to find it? Who is the salt and light of a country that is supposed to help it persevere and preserve? You heard what I said last week, and I'm just going to say it again. It is that which God said. You are the salt. You are the light of a people. You are to make them thirst and long for more. You are to preserve what is right and good.
You are to take them out of darkness into light, and when you have a church that is screwed up, you will have a world that is screwed up. The problem in America, just like the problem in individual lives underneath churches today, is the dead, decrepit, weak, compromised, immoral church, and God always sees it that way.
Let me just take you back to Israel, centuries ago. Chaos had come on the land. Why? It's because the prophets and the priests were not doing their jobs, so this is one social commentator's understanding of what was going on. This is Lamentations, chapter 2, verses 11 through 15. This is what Jeremiah said.
"My eyes fail because of tears, my spirit is greatly troubled; my heart is poured out on the earth because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, when little ones and infants faint in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, 'Where is grain and wine?' As they faint like a wounded man in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mothers' bosom. How shall I admonish you? To what shall I compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? To what shall I liken you as I comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For your ruin is as vast as the sea; who can heal you?"
Here's your problem, in verse 14. "Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions…" In other words, they've put forward ideas that are not rooted in God's vision. "…they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity, but they have seen for you false and misleading oracles." Other ways out.
"All who pass along the way clap their hands in derision at you; they hiss and shake their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem, 'Is this the city of which they said, "The perfection of beauty, a joy to all the earth"?'" Call me crazy, but I see those kinds of things happening when people march this country, and they go, "Is this the land of opportunity? Is this the land of the free? These people don't look very free." They hiss. Why? It's because the prophets failed.
How about this? In Ezekiel, chapter 22, see if you can catch who God thinks is responsible. This is a guy writing at the same time as Jeremiah was writing right there. In verse 24 of Ezekiel 22: "Son of man…" Which is his name for Ezekiel. "…say to her [Israel] , 'You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.' There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her." The prophets didn't do their job. Look at verse 26.
"Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them." Now governmental leadership:
"Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain. Her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord God,' when the Lord has not spoken."
What happens? He says, "The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice." In other words, this is lawless. This is the Wild, Wild West, not rooted in any morality but what seems right according to the spirit of the age. Whose fault is it? Prophet, priest, and prince. That's always the case.
What's God's solution for Israel in that day and age? He raises up a true prophet. He raises up a true spokesman for him, and the people don't like him. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel are marginalized and criticized and threatened and imprisoned and impugned, but they didn't care because they knew who to fear.
Do you know what the solution for our neighbors and our own lives is? It's to have friends who love open rebuke more than they love the fact that you may not like them. They know, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." Do you know what our country needs?
We need prophets who will, in love, with gentleness and reverence, speak the truth and not in an inflammatory way that will be not like the guys on Fox but wise as a fox and innocent as doves, as we've said, but will do it in a way that is clear and compelling and helps folks understand what is going on.
Look at this. Let's just read Ezekiel, chapter 2. The reason I'm doing this, by the way, is we have this thing called The Journey, if you haven't heard about. It'll help you read through the Bible in a systematic way, and every now and then, I like to take sections of Scripture we've just read and go, "Look how relevant this is!" Read God's Word, Bible intake, and don't just read it. Respond to it.
Don't just do it alone. Get the community around you to go, "What do you think we should do? What should we do in light of this? How does this apply to us?" Wouldn't it be great if there were questions that were written on God's Word that you could do with your children that would help you teach it to them? Guess what? Go to www.jointhejourney.com.
Wouldn't it be great if every day there were questions there for you to wrestle with Scripture, so you didn't have to try and figure out what to do with it? Guess what? Go to www.jointhejourney.com. One of the things I hope happens here is that we elevate amongst here a sense of really good, solid peer pressure where, when we see each other, we go, "I know that you were reading with me today in Ezekiel 10 or Ezekiel 11," right where we are right now.
It should just be an expectation that, whatever we're doing individually, corporately we're moving there together, reminding each other of the things that are true. That's what's going to make us one as we all together listen to our Father. It's free. It's e-mailed to you every morning first thing in your inbox, www.jointhejourney.com. That is not something we do to impress ourselves. It is something we do to equip the saints. Jump on! Jump on! It's a great time to be in there right now. Look what it says in Ezekiel, chapter 2, though.
"Then He said to me, 'Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!' As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, "Thus says the Lord God."'"
"Look, you don't have to be a genius." "What do I say to them?" "Well, don't sit down and write some treatise. Don't come up with your own philosophy. Just share with them what I share with you. Speak the Word of God to them." Paul picked up this same idea. "…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction."
What was the solution in Israel's day? What was the solution in Paul's day? What's the solution in our day? Is it to panic, shake our fists, fill our tongues with hate speech? No. I'm going to tell you exactly what the solution was then and is today for our neighbors, ourselves, our country, and our world.
Verse 5: "As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions…" Did you pick up this idea last week in Matthew 10 by Jesus? "…neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious."
I'm catching a theme here. "These students of yours, teacher, are hellions. In Class 101 that we're giving you this semester, brace yourself." Does he say, "Abandon them"? No, he says, "You go preach. You go teach." Verse 8: "Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you."
Are you ready? This is where you go to school. I love this. If I write a book, I'm going to title it Eat this Book, and I'm not going to be talking about the book I write. It's going to be talking about God's Word. It is the basis and the foundation for life and liberty. I mean, I look, and I still see some of my friends, you know, who are out there, and they're trying to figure out if God is good.
It's the law of liberty, Charlie. Jump on board, man. It's the law of liberty, people. He loves you. He's not trying to rip you off. He's trying to set you free. He wants you to pursue life, liberty, and happiness because he's a good Father, and I'm just telling you that, right here, what he says is, "You eat this book. Do you want to have something to say? Do you want to love your friends? Eat this book."
"Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.' So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, 'Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.' Then I ate it…"
Look at verse 3. He says, "…I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth." It's Proverbs 3. It's life. It's sweetness. Go get you some of that! "Then He said to me, 'Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them." You don't have to be brilliant. You just have to be obedient. "For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language, but to the house of Israel…"
People always go, "I want to be faithful to God. I want to go on a mission trip, but I don't know the language." Guess what? There are people here who speak your language who don't have prophets, priests, and missionaries who want to engage with them and love them who have in their hearts what is in the heart of God and who engage with them in an intentional way in civil discourse with gentleness and respect and give an account for the hope that is within them. There is your solution to your country right there.
He says in verse 6, " [I'm not going to send you] to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate. Behold…" But I'm going to give you this. "…I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads."
Can I tell you what's wrong with America? The church does not have a hard forehead. It is weak. It is acquiescing. It is always trying to figure out, "What can we do to get the people to come?" They don't like to say faithful wounds that wound their friends. They don't like to talk about sin. They don't like to talk about depravity. They don't talk about justice. They want to let everybody know that love's going to win.
Well, love is going to win, but part of love is justice, and God wants us to be faithful prophets. He says, "You have to have as hard of a head as them." That doesn't mean be a hardheaded jerk. It just means do not relent. First Corinthians 16:13 and 14 were the very first verses I taught my young boys. "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."
Do you know what's wrong with the church? It's not on the alert. It's asleep. It doesn't stand firm in the faith. It keeps redefining the faith. It doesn't act like men with foreheads of iron. It keeps retreating. It isn't strong, and it, therefore, isn't loving. What's the problem with America? It's the weak and dead church. Can I just say this about the church? This is the key for us. We have to remember who we are.
You know, we always talk about wanting to put a Christian in the White House. Name to me the last Christian (please don't do it out loud so you don't embarrass yourself)… Please, name to me the last American president who did not associate with a church. Obama? He has bent over backwards like no president I can remember, saying, "I am a Christian." Bush? Methodist. Clinton? Baptist.
Bush? Episcopalian. Reagan? Presbyterian. Carter? Baptist. Ford? Episcopalian. Nixon? Quaker. Doesn't he wish he'd never used electronics? Let's see. Before Nixon, we have Johnson. Johnson was Disciples of Christ. Before Johnson, there was Kennedy who was Catholic. Do I need to keep going?
See, the problem isn't that we haven't had men associated with a church in the White House. The problem is that they're associated with a church in America, which is not Ezekiel, chapter 2 and 3. It's not the true church; therefore, it's not a true godly leader, and so the princes, just like the priests and the prophets all along, all they are is an expression of what's going on with people who are shepherded by a weak and ineffective salt-and-light community. Do you see that? We are the problem. I have seen the enemy, and he is us, and it's time for us…
Jeremiah, chapter 1, verses 17 and 19 is a great little section of Scripture. I love what it says right here. It says, "Now, gird up your loins…" This is him talking to Jeremiah. "You pick up your drawers, buckle down, get ready for war." "…arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them." You will lose your voice. You will lose your place. I'll be angry at you, and there will not be any respect for you and your organization in the world. It is what has happened.
He says this, "Jeremiah, if you want some, here we go, baby." "Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze…" Come on! Don't you want to be that? Don't you want to be part of the steel curtain. Don't you want to be a part of that great defensive line that made Pittsburgh famous through the 70s, and they're enshrined in the Hall of Fame? Here's something better for you.
You may not be 6'6" and 320, and you'll never be in Canton, but you can be somewhere else. You can be a part of a wall of bronze, better than a steel curtain. And see if this isn't familiar. "They will fight against you…" God says, "It's rigged." "'…but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,' declares the Lord." God is looking for a few faithful men and women because he loves this country, and even if this country doesn't continue, he loves people.
Our job is to be faithful wherever we are. If it's under the United States of America or whatever it is that we're under one day, it will not change us because we as a church are not related to our government. We are to be the conscience of Caesar. We are to serve Caesar. If Caesar wants to kill us because we serve him, no problem.
"Usher me into glory. For me to die is Christ and to live is gain. It's better for me if you whack me, but it's better for you if I remain," if you're God's church, but if you're not, we have a problem. What do you do? You get in the game. You get in the game. Here's the first thing. How about this? One of the guys I love to read who was a faithful prophet who was the Jeremiah of his day is a guy by the name of Tozer. I've read this before. I want to read this again. Here we go.
"Our most pressing obligation today is to do all in our power to obtain a revival that will result in a reformed, revitalized, purified church. It is of far greater importance that we have better Christians than that we have more of them. Each generation of Christians is the seed of the next, and degenerate seed is sure to produce a degenerate harvest not a little better than but a little worse than the seed from which it sprang.
Thus the direction will be down until vigorous, effective means are taken to improve the seed… To carry on these activities [evangelism, missions] scripturally the church should be walking in fullness of power, separated, purified and ready at any moment to give up everything, even life itself, for the greater glory of Christ." Preach it, A.W.! That's Matthew 10 right there.
"…for the greater glory of Christ. For a worldly, weak, decadent church to make converts is but to bring forth after her own kind and extend her weakness and decadence a bit further out… So vitally important is spiritual quality that it is hardly too much to suggest that attempts to grow larger might well be suspended until we have become better."
It is the law of creation that you will produce after your kind. My question is…What kind of person are you? If there were more of you in this world, would this world be a better place? If every Christian was as committed, devoted, discipled, fervent in the spiritual disciplines as you were, would the church be a better church?Stop blaming the priests and the prophets, people who are a kingdom of priests, and ask yourself, "What do I need to do today to get with it?"
I happen to believe it starts with prayer, which is personal repentance with God, not just the activity of prayer but then an ongoing attitude of just self-surrender, intimacy with Christ. It starts with Bible intake. Eat this book! It starts with being in a community of other prophets who can encourage you and pray for you and practice the one-anothers with you and give you resolve and to be in a platoon where you are to go out as a body and serve the world. How are you doing?
If everybody was like you… I want every church in America to be a prevailing church, every church in the world to be a prevailing church and an Acts 2 community. I know this. For every church in the world to be what God intends a church to be, this church must be what God intends it to be, which is why this is where he's given me to be.
I want to make sure that we are who Christ wants us to be, and if he wants to allow us then to be a city on the hill that can't be hidden and other churches come to us and go, "What are you doing to make disciples? How are you reaching people in this current stage in this world in this materialistic city where there's so much distraction? How are you getting people to love Jesus?" then we might be able to tell them, but that's not going to happen unless we are those people.
Because God says he wants every church to prevail, it is our job to make sure we prevail here. Because God wants everybody to be conformed to the image of Christ, that can't happen unless we are conformed to the image of Christ. How are you doing? How are you doing? Well, I want to celebrate with some of you that some of you are doing extremely well.
We got a letter about eight days ago from a gal who was here for six years, and I want you to watch the decadence and chaos, the 2 Timothy 3 life that she came out of, and she is going to use Watermark a lot. These are her words, not ours. "Watermark is the body of Christ. I met people of God who loved me and cared for me." When you hear Watermark, think followers of Jesus. I pray you hear in this story the true church with a hard forehead who didn't give up in the midst of a broken little girl's life. Be encouraged. Be challenged.
Way to go, those of you were involved with the Ruckers. This is how you change a world right here. This dark, broken, abused little girl that was a Lamentations 2 life has left here now with her husband, and they are now going in ministry in Houston, when they could not resist the call of God on their lives. Check this out.
Leslie Rucker: Dear Watermark staff, after six years as a member of Watermark Community Church, it is with bittersweet feelings that I tell you we are moving to League City, Texas. We've already joined a new fellowship there, but I wanted to take some extra time to say, "thank you," to the staff and members for the eternal significance you had in my life. God has used the staff and members of Watermark to bring me into eternal fellowship with him through Christ.
In addition to my salvation experience, I found hope, healing, comfort, and equipping for every stage of my young adult life. I first came to Watermark after several invitations from a friend I knew through Junior League. Although I had said "no" many times previously, when I called her after hitting rock bottom on a Saturday night, she was available to meet me where I was and invite me to church one more time.
I went with her to Watermark the next day, and it has made all the difference. I walked into the door completely convinced that I was damaged goods due to an abusive childhood and that I personally had been so bad that I was beyond God's love. During the rare moments of hope that somehow God still loved me, I felt as though the stains of my sins were too great to ever be of use to God.
The people and ministries of Watermark helped me recover from several addictions, childhood sexual abuse, and the guilt and shame of destructive choices I made as a teenager and young adult. You provided a safe place for me to ask the tough questions about God and faith and whether I could really trust the Bible was true and accurate. Through your faithfulness to balance truth and grace and meet people where they are, I discovered that I wasn't damaged goods and unlovable. I now know the truth, that God is bigger than any sin I committed or was committed against me.
I know that I'm loved with an everlasting love that nothing can sever. I know that my stains of sin, once so deep and dark red, have been washed as pure and as white as snow. Thank you for showing me these priceless gifts of truth and freedom. Thank you for providing a breadth of ministries that can walk a lost and deeply wounded single girl through recovery, healing, equipping, community, dating with purity, premarital counseling, marriage, motherhood, creating a new healthy family dynamic, and ministry to others.
I have been thoroughly equipped for every good work God has assigned and planned for me through the faithfulness of many individuals who make up Watermark. I have been blessed mightily, and now it is time for me to bless others in a new community from the abundance I received through you in Dallas. With eternal gratitude for your faithfulness, Mrs. Leslie A. Rucker.
[End of audio]
Man, I love that. Way to go, church! Way to go! My favorite response to last week's message is one I got from one of the guys who has an obstinate head. He is loving and leading. This is one of the most faithful people at our church. He's a guy who has economically, relationally, and societally made sacrifices that very few folks in our church have made.
He is at the tip of the spear, and he wrote me a letter after last week, saying, "Todd, thank you. I need to double down. I went and sat and looked at all the decadence around me, and I had to ask myself, 'How am I doing in my neighborhood? How many neighbors do I know by name? How many folks am I really out there loving, engaging, being a priest to them?' I want to thank you that I'm going to re-up, and a year from now on July 3, 2012, by the grace of God, something will be different in my neighborhood."
That, friends, is how countries change. Don't write letters to your congressman and not love your neighbor. You don't have to make it an either/or. I will just say this. If you're going to do one, love your neighbor. Love your neighbor. Why?
" [Because] you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation."
Don't be the dead church. Know that, in following him, there is great reward. As you leave today, listen to these songs, these words, that again… I wrote a song, "I'll Stand." I said, "I want to write a song that just says, 'Follow him.' Fill my tongue. Fill my heart because, in following you, there is great reward, and there is great hope for our nation." Will you be a part of that?
If you're here today and you've never been reconciled to God, and chaos and tyranny still mark your life, can I tell you about the Liberator, Jesus Christ? We are just his servants. We are his body. We want to introduce you to our head. In that little perforated section just mark, "I want to know more about having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ," If this is the day that you will become poor in spirit, come. Come. We won't leave until you're done talking.
Turn to the person next to you and say, "Hey, do you understand this stuff?" and if they don't, both of you come down here. If they do, go to work with each other's lives. Are you ready? When I say, "Have a great week of worship," I'm saying, "Let's go to war with your flesh with your heart in a way that will honor God and be a source of grace to his people." Let's worship him. Amen? Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.